How to Make Addition Strategies Stick

I love it when I know kids are using addition strategies to answer their number facts quickly and accurately.

You know how it is, at the beginning of the year they’re using a ruler, their fingers or blocks to add 4 + 5 and now you ask them and they answer …within three seconds … no fingers! They can mentally process 4 + 4 + 1 more in seconds. And all because you took the time to teach them the strategies.

Teach them addition strategies

Addition strategies, also known as mental math strategies, make addition easier.

A child who relies on adding on their fingers is going to run into a heap of problems. When peers are able to easily add two or more numbers together and they’re still stuck adding on their fingers, their confidence goes out the window.


Addition games using strategies


Research shows children who understand and can use the processes involved in adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing are more likely to try new ideas and adapt their knowledge to unfamiliar situations.

Children who struggle with simple calculations will develop the belief they can’t do math.

This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. These kids will avoid taking part in situations where their lack of knowledge will be displayed. In time, it means new ideas, generalizations, and applications are beyond their reach.

If we want children to add, subtract, multiply or divide with confidence, their recall of basic facts must be automatic and this starts with addition.

I always have a sequenced approach to teaching the basic addition facts to twenty and I’ve written about how I teach the addition facts here.

Use games to consolidate their learning

During and after teaching the strategies you want to include plenty of addition games in your math stations – ones that focus on each particular strategy. I include two or three games while I’m teaching a particular strategy and then use them throughout the year to keep the strategy fresh in my kid’s minds.


Addition games to teach addition strategies.


Rainbow facts, friends of ten, whatever you call it; being able to add two numbers to make ten is an important strategy. Kids need to understand 8 + 2 or 7 + 3  make ten as this helps when kids move onto harder facts such as 8 + 4. If they know 8 + 2 = 10 they only have to count on 2 more to get the answer. When they start adding larger numbers they can use these compatible numbers to add numbers quickly – 43 + 27.


Addition games to teach addition strategies


Counting on requires students to start with the largest number and count up 1, 2 or 3 more. Counting on any more than three can start to confuse students and there are better strategies to use.


Addition games to teach addition strategies


There’s no particular strategy for learning the doubles, students must memorize them. Use rhymes and visuals to help.


Addition games to teach addition strategies


Once your kids know their doubles, they can use a double to help them answer their doubles plus one facts;


Addition games to teach addition strategies


and doubles plus two. Introduce these strategies when kids know their doubles facts.


Addition games to teach addition strategies


Young kids can find teen numbers tricky. Understanding that a teen number is made up of tens and ones is crucial for the understanding of place value. I always include adding to ten as an addition strategy for kids to learn.


Addition games to teach addition strategies


Introduce kids to adding 9 when they are confident with adding 10 to a number. Also known as add 10, count back 1 or see 9, think 10, this strategy can be used for adding 8.

Grab some games for your math centers

You can grab these addition games from my TpT store by clicking HERE or on the picture below.


addition games for count ons, doubles doubles + 1 and 2, adding 9



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